Standing at the base of this mountain, I drop my pack, bend down to open it, and check the contents inside once more. I’m procrastinating and know it. I go through this each and every time. I gather my gear, hike the trail towards the approach, and then stand for what seems like forever while contemplating whether or not to make my ascent.
I wish things were different, but it’s always the same. I’ve probably scaled it thousands, possibly tens of thousands of times; sometimes multiple times in a day. But deep in my heart of hearts, I never really want to. Yet once again I find myself debating whether or not to make the climb.
Though I’ve reached the peak on numerous occasions, I’m no mountaineer. I’m just a man who finds himself caught in a dilemma which brings me back time and time again. And so I stand here waiting with the question still lingering in my brain. What will my decision be?
This always happens when I see or hear of one of my brothers or sisters in Christ falling into a situation which I deem to be morally insufficient to where I think I am in life. And heaven help anyone who would try to knock me off this mountain and dethrone me.
You see deep down I feel this need to be king of the moral mountain. And this drives me continually to the summit. I come here as a way of letting the whole world see my superiority as I sit in the judgment of others.
Jesus told a story about a mountain climber like me. Maybe you’ve read the story or heard the term “prodigal son” before. You can find it here, Luke 15:11 – 32, and it’s a great story about forgiveness and the rights of being a son.
But the end of the story, which talks about the brother who stayed home with his father, intrigues and challenges me the most because this is the brother who was a mountain climber too.
The gist of the story is the younger son wanted his father to give him his inheritance before his father died. The father complied with his son’s request and the boy immediately left home, traveling to a foreign land where he spent all of it on wild living. When the money ran out, the people who had been his friends disappeared and he couldn’t get any of them to help him out. Homeless and hungry, he looked for work, but all he could find was taking care of pigs; a job which was very detestable in every way.
While the younger brother was out “doing his thing”, the older brother stayed home and continued to work with his dad.
Eventually, the younger son returns home after having realized how much he had messed up. His dad, lovingly, accepts him back without a second thought and throws a huge party to celebrate. But what does the older brother do? He gets mad about it, and refuses to go to the party. When his father tries to reason with him, the older son begins listing all the things which his brother has done in an effort to make him look bad, while at the same time making himself look good.
Before you condemn the older son for this, take a look in the mirror. It’s possible you’ve done what he did. I know I have.
Maybe you’ve heard about a Christian brother or sister doing something morally or ethically wrong, and then judged them for it?
There are things people do which really bother me; extramarital affairs, homosexuality, excessive partying and drinking, living together without being married, pretty much anything where people put themselves above God and His ways. And when I see or hear about Christians doing this, I reach for my climbing gear.
I’ll be the first to admit it, I’ve been the older brother more times than I’d like to acknowledge. Sitting from my lofty perch, I watch as people come back home to the church after years of being out there doing their own thing and think to myself, “Look at them God, why are You taking them back? I’ve stayed loyal to You all these years. How can You take them back after all they’ve done to You?”
I know it’s shocking, but I want to be totally transparent here so maybe you will recognize how I’m not the only one out there climbing mountains. If you were to be totally honest with yourself, you would admit at one time or another you’ve been the older brother too.
I’m know I’m quick to judge, but then I’m reminded of God’s grace in my life, and if it weren’t for this I’d still be living for myself too. Does this mean I have to accept what they did, or celebrate it? No, but I do have to learn how to show grace to my brothers and sisters who are returning home, and love them like my Father does. After all, if He is willing to forgive them and welcome them back into the fold, who am I to stand in judgment?
Let me say to those who are returning home; I don’t condemn you, and I’m glad you’ve decided to come back. If through my actions I’ve hurt or offended you, please forgive me. I don’t want to be the big brother who refuses to come to the party, and I will work diligently to retire my climbing gear. Welcome home, let’s party!